What is mechanical back pain and how best to treat it?

Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2008 Dec;12(6):406-11. doi: 10.1007/s11916-008-0069-3.


Back pain is one of the most common patient complaints brought forth to physicians. Mechanical back pain accounts for 97% of cases, arising from spinal structures such as bone, ligaments, discs, joints, nerves, and meninges. Acute back pain in the absence of progressive neurologic deficits and other underlying nonmechanical causes may be treated conservatively, with specific emphasis on maintaining activity levels and function. Mechanical back pain persisting for more than 4 to 6 weeks may warrant further diagnostic testing and imaging. Common causes of mechanical back pain include spinal stenosis, herniated discs, zygapophysial joint pain, discogenic pain, vertebral fractures, sacroiliac joint pain, and myofascial pain. A wide variety of treatments are available, with different treatments specifically targeted toward different causes. A balanced approach, which takes into account patient psychosocial factors and incorporates multidisciplinary care, increases the likelihood of success from back pain interventions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Back Pain / diagnosis
  • Back Pain / physiopathology
  • Back Pain / therapy
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / diagnosis*
  • Low Back Pain / physiopathology
  • Low Back Pain / therapy*
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Physical Therapy Modalities / trends
  • Sciatica / diagnosis
  • Sciatica / physiopathology
  • Sciatica / therapy
  • Treatment Outcome